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Wellington café Sweet Release has a heartening new initiative

14 Oct 2020

Few people share the kind of generosity that Kris Bartley does. In the midst New Zealand’s first lockdown, the founder of Wellington’s first all-vegan café, Sweet Release Cakes and Treats, was adamant on starting a dedicated meal sponsorship programme. 

“Every day I was hearing about people losing their jobs, companies closing, kids that would rely on being fed at school not having access to food because school was closed,” says Kris. “It was overwhelming to think about. Our team and business were going through lockdown like everyone else, so I needed to find a way to help while still being able support and sustain [the team] at the same time.”

With paints sponsored by Resene, Sweet Release barista Vee and her partner, Dan, spent two weeks painting the café – including a special Pay it Forward mural – so it could be more inviting. “Thanks to Resene, we were able to put the money we would have spent on paints towards Pay it Forward meals instead,” says founder Kris. For this mural, the Sweet Release team used Resene Bright Red, Resene Rice Cake, Resene Spotlight, Resene Bokara Grey, Resene Bilbao and Resene Resolution Blue.

And she did. With some decorating help from Resene, who provided a slew of beautiful paint colours to help her do up her store, Kris created Pay it Forward, a new initiative at Sweet Release that gives people the opportunity to purchase a meal voucher for someone in need. “Anyone can walk past the shop and see how many free meals we have available,” she says. “There is a board by the window we update and post on our Instagram story every day. People can come in and choose a voucher that is hanging from the wall to pay for their meal.”

The Sweet Release team also used Resene paints in the café’s bathroom to highlight their other initiative, End Period Poverty. “Everyone has been loving the murals throughout the store,” says Kris. “Every day there has been great feedback about how bright and colourful [they are].” For this mural, they used Resene Bilbao, Resene Rice Cake, Resene Bokara Grey, Resene Spotlight and Resene Resolution Blue.

Rooted in kindness, the initiative offers a no-questions-asked policy. “[People with a voucher] can purchase anything so that their experience is the same as anyone else,” Kris explains, noting the importance of allowing people to keep their dignity. “I grew up in poverty in the Philippines. Food insecurity was the norm in my childhood. We can have a better society when people aren’t worrying where their next meal is coming from.”

Her programme is a powerful and heart-warming gesture, and Kris is confident of its run-on effect. “One action can turn into waves of great things.”

For more information on Sweet Release, or to get involved, see

images Kris Bartley

Published: 14 Oct 2020